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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Bound to Please: Exhibit

Fleet Library at RISD, 1st Floor October 28, 2022 - January 29, 2023

Curators

Claudia Covert
Special Collections Librarian

Matthew Bird
Faculty Fellow

Naya Chang
Exhibit Student Assistant

Priyata Bosamia
Poster Design, Graduate Assistant

Decorative bookbindings

The 1800’s were a transformative time for the book cover we know today.  Until then books were bound in paper and it was up to the buyer to work with a book binder to create a binding.  Bookcloth was invented in the 1820s in England.  This led to embossing patterns on the plain cloth and later to the rise of decorations in color and gold.  Many other designs were tried in the 1840-60s such as wooden covers carved with a heat stamp and paper-mâché pressed into a mold to create a cover reminiscent of a medieval binding.  In the late 1800’s women in England and the United States began designing book covers, leaving behind the ornate Victorian designs and ushering in a new era of arts and crafts design.  Paper was used to protect these bookbindings, usually with only the title and price printed on it. In the early 1900s publishers began to use the paper wrapping or book jacket, to advertise the book.  The text on the jackets grew to include “blurbs” - comments about the book by the author or other authors.
 

Notable Book Designers:

Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904) designed books (including book covers and spines, title pages, and decorations throughout the book) mostly for Houghton Mifflin in Boston.  Some of her books she signed with a flaming heart.
 

Alice C. Morse (1863-1961) started designing stained glass working for Tiffany.  She later designed close to 100 books.  She wrote “Women Illustrators” for the book Art and Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.
 

Margaret Armstrong (1867–1944) designed well over 250 book covers.  Many are signed with an M overlapping an A.  She and her sister Helen also illustrated books and magazines.  In the 1930’s she began writing mystery books.  The book cover and book jacket (or dust jacket) for The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan were designed by Margaret Armstrong.
 

Lee Thayer (1874-1973) was part of the husband and wife team of Decorative Designers.  Henry, Lee and their team were very prolific book designers and designed thousands of books.  Their signature was interlocking Ds. 

Exhibit Cases

This fall, Michael W. Hughey donated two of his book collections - Turn of the Century Trade Bindings and Book and Book Jacket Designers to the Fleet Library at RISD.  The first collection focuses on the Arts & Crafts movement’s impact on book cover design and the second collection focuses on the era of calligraphic and hand lettered book covers of the 20th century. These collections, comprising over 800 titles, served Michael as inspiration during his career as a craftsperson and artist of calligraphy.  

This fall, Michael W. Hughey donated two of his book collections - Turn of the Century Trade Bindings and Book and Book Jacket Designers to the Fleet Library at RISD.  The first collection focuses on the Arts & Crafts movement’s impact on book cover design and the second collection focuses on the era of calligraphic and hand lettered book covers of the 20th century. These collections, comprising over 800 titles, served Michael as inspiration during his career as a craftsperson and artist of calligraphy.